Brief History of Colnago Carbon Fibre Frames
Colnago are well known for their revolutionary carbon fibre road bike, the C40 (released in the mid 1990’s). However, the C40 was not Colnago’s first carbon fibre bike. This article discusses some of the early road bike predecessors that led to the design and creation of the Colnago C40.
Colnago Concept (1986)
Ernesto Colnago in collaboration with Enzo Ferrari in 1986, developed their first carbon road bike, known as the Concept, but it was never released for sale as the frame was too heavy (13kg) and too flexible for professional racing. The world’s first bike with a carbon frame, carbon forks and carbon wheels. The frame has a lug structure, only the lug part is made of aluminum, a hydraulic caliper brake, a 16-speed transmission mechanism is built in the crank.
Interestingly, in the same year Colnago released the Concept (1986), Greg Lemond won the Tour de France on a Look KG86 bicycle which was built using carbon/kevlar tubes with alloy lugs. By this time, carbon had already proven itself to be a lightweight and versatile component in road bike frame design.
Colnago Volo (1988)
In 1988, Colnago released the Volo which was a carbon/kevlar monocoque frame design which featured Master profile tubing. The Volo was only on sale for a year.
Colnago C35 (1989)
The C35 was released only one year after the Volo. You can see looking at both images there appears to be very little difference between the 2 models. The C35 was released on Colnago’s 35th anniversary year and as such was the very first ‘C’ series Colnago bike. This model was still listed in Colnago catalogs well after the released of the C40 in 1994, notably the C35 Corsa and C35 Corsa Strada. At the time, these monocoque carbon fibre frames were at the leading edge of road bike design, however I’m not aware of these frames being ridden to victory in professional races?
Colnago Carbitubo (1989)
Colnago hedged their bets by releasing the Carbitubo in 1989, the same year as the all new C35. The Carbitubo featured a unique double down tube design and was also designed in collaboration with Ferrari. The double oblique down tube was designed to increase cross rigidity and the lugs were made of aluminium alloy. In 1993, Maurizio Fondriest won Milan San Remo riding a Colnago Carbitubo.
Colnago Custom Carbon TT Road Bike for Italian National Team (1991)
This road bike was a carbon fibre monocoque frame and was custom made for the Italian National team. It featured track/TT bike geometry along with road bike gearing (including front and rear derailleurs). The Colnago website dates the bike as 1984 (in the Hall of Fame), but this appears incorrect as advised in the comments posted by a contributor below and confirmed by an interview with Ernesto Colnago that states the bike was 1991 (refer link to reference below).
Colnago C40 (1995)
Carbon fibre tubes bonded into carbon fibre lugs. Originally supplied with steel Precisa forks, but later upgraded many times over it’s 10 year production period. Read more in my Ultimate Guide to the Colnago C40.
I hope you found this article interesting. I have listed the following website pages as general references.
- Colnago Concept
- Colnago Concept (Colnago Japan website)
- Colnago Concept First Look
- Colnago C35
- Look KG86 Bicycle
- Early history of Carbon Fibre Bicycles
- Durability of carbon fibre forks and frames
- Ernesto Colnago discusses the 1991 Olympic TT Road bike
I have been riding and working on my own bikes for many years now. I wanted to share my experiences, knowledge and research with others. My aim is to inspire people to get involved in all aspects of this amazing sport. Cheers.
I welcome reader feedback in the comments section. Should you wish to suggest an amendment, please include a note advising the source of your information so that myself and other readers can ascertain the accuracy of your information. Note: Trolling or argumentative comments will be removed as they are counter-productive.
3 thoughts on “Colnago’s First Carbon Fibre Bikes”
Today I came by accident to your page and even though I didn’t look through much of it, I can see this is great source of information.
Thanks for that.
Other than that, why am I writing comment here?
Well because I think that some data published here need to be corrected. 🙂
The first (and so far only thing – didn’t have time to go through the rest of it) that caught my attention is Colnago Carbon Olympic TT Road Bike (1984).
The bike is (apparently) form LA Olympics in 1984., but the most of the parts on it are much newer.
For example pedals are the first that struck me.
Look didn’t make clipless pedals before 1985. And the model pictured is Look PP96 Carbo Pro, manufactured for Campagnolo’s Record line in 1994., or 1995.
Crankset and FD are from C Record era, so no sooner than 1988.
Then the brakes…Campagnolo didn’t have dual pivot brakes before 1993. It’s hard to tell from this photo what brakes are installed on that frame, but they could be even newer than 1993.
RD is also at least 8 sp, so 1991., or newer, headset as well 1993., or newer.
Seatpost seems to be Record titanium, introduced in 2000. with 10 sp groupset.
And the last, but not least stem is Italmanubri ITM Eclypse Racing made in late 90’s.
So, while the frame might indeed be from 1984 (although I doubt that as well), the rest of the bike, at least the most of it is much newer vintage.
Hi Krako, thanks for your comments and detailed analysis of the Colnago Carbon Olympic TT Road Bike (1984). I originally wrote the article using the date advised on the Colnago website (Hall of Fame), but as you have discovered, this appears to be incorrect. I followed up on a reference that advises the bike was actually first raced in 1991 and updated this page accordingly.
Thanks for replying.
Even 1991. (at least for some parts on this bike) seems to be far fetched, but yes it seems more sensible date, than previously posted. 🙂
As I said in my first post, I didn’t have time to go through your web site (yet – but I will, I promise), but it seems great source of information. Thank you for that.
Best of luck for the future with it.